Seven Ways To Make Meetings More Effective

It may seem like a huge waste of time for some but a properly conducted meeting should reap benefits far beyond its expense. Meetings are essential — if done well, it would leave a sense of accomplishment and actually help make things happen.
While I would focus our discussion on the traditional type of meetings where each participant is physically present, many of the principles stated are also applicable to hi-tech types of meetings like video conferencing or through such popular VOIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol) services like Skype.
In small companies, there is a tendency to focus on operations and usually there are fewer meetings than ideal. However, in large companies, the opposite is true. Due to the large number of personnel which needs coordination, meetings take up a larger proportion of the time.
Nevertheless, whether large or small firms, meetings should be one of the most useful management tools when done right. Make your meetings more productive by following these guidelines:
1. Determine the objectives of the meeting. Knowing clearly what you wish to achieve is critical; it is with this knowledge that decisions on other elements of the meeting would be based. Will it be a brain storming session? Is it to simply announce a minor change in rules? So much would depend on what is to be accomplished. For example, a meeting to determine the acquisition of very expensive machinery would need the presence of production personnel besides the other usual attendees. If the meeting is on a trivial issue, then less people should be invited.
2. Know your target participants and their roles. Determine who should be attending the meeting. If the company is large and people may possibly not be familiar with each other, there should be a list of the names, positions, functions and department of the attendees. If possible, all participants must be informed beforehand regarding about the agenda so that they could prepare and bring along necessary materials that may be needed so that they could contribute better. Some attendees may be there to present their ideas while others may be attending to listen and decide. There are also times when most of the participants will just be hearing new policies that they just must comply with.
3. Develop a framework. Not only must there be an agenda. There must be a format for conduct of the meeting so that it would not degenerate into chaos. If the meeting is for a large number of participants, it would help if you have members to delegate important tasks; however, if you believe you’ll be handling quite a huge number of delegates, you may consider forming committees, so you can ensure all aspects of the meeting will be managed well. Do not forget to have someone take the minutes of the meeting.
4. Have the budget, facilities and resources needed. Determine how much you will need to spend for food and reproduction of materials. If your company does not have a dedicated meeting room then such things as projectors, white boards and venue must be considered. So much time is wasted if such matters are overlooked. Drawing up a checklist would make it unlikely for an item to be forgotten.
5. Manage the meeting. You must manage the flow of the meeting. Certain people should not be allowed to dominate the discussion; encourage others who should be talking more. Be in control of situation and do not allow the conversation to drift from the agenda nor dwell too long on a certain topic. Manage the pace so that critical matters are tackled.
6. Evaluate the meeting process. Have the objectives been met? There is nothing more frustrating than finishing a meeting that did not accomplish anything. It would also be best if you could get everyone to enthusiastically support the resolutions. It would be a pyrrhic victory if too many people are not motivated about the approved plans.
7. Take personal notes. Do not rely only on the meeting minutes; write your own notes regarding the proceedings. This is different from the meeting minutes as you would write the points that are particularly relevant to you. You could jot down anything that may prove useful later on.
Since a meeting takes up valuable working time, it must be carefully planned just like any other activity that consumes resources. Meetings need not be routine chores. If you know how to conduct effective meetings, it could be the most potent productivity booster.
*Originally published by the Manila Bulletin. BB1, Wednesday, March 13, 2013. Written by Ruben Anlacan, Jr. (President, BusinessCoach, Inc.) All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or copied without express written permission of the copyright holders.

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